How to study the Psalms

Quiz question : Who wrote the psalms?

Answer : David wrote almost half the Psalms, 73 in all, Moses wrote one (Psalms 90), Solomon wrote two (Psalms 72 and 127) and the rest written by sons of Asaph (a Levite musician David appointed to serve in the tabernacle until the Temple was completed), sons of Korah (another group of temple singers), etc.

How we can benefit from the Psalms

Read it like a prayer. It helps us to express ourselves to God

When we want to worship God and run out of words. Or when we want to be creative in our worship of God, use the praise psalms. They help us to express our awe and worship of God

(Psalms 104:1-4 NIV) Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. {2} He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent {3} and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. {4} He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.

Not many of us would be so creative when it comes to worshipping God. We can tell God that He is great but with the Psalms we can express it in so many beautiful ways. The difference lies with expression. When we tell a girl that she is beautiful, period, it is different if we tell her that her eyes are like the stars, her skin as white as snow, etc.

When we feel deep sorrow and want to express them to God, we can also use the Psalms. Sometimes we are so depressed that we do not know exactly why. In such times, the Psalms help because they pinpoint many of our sorrows specifically and we can identify with the Psalmist. Just talking about it in detail to God lets out some steam and we feel better afterwards. If this does not work, then knowing that thousands of years ago there are people who face the same problems as we do help to alleviate the self pity and make us feel better.

Another benefit of this kind of Psalms is also that it helps us to learn good ways of lamenting to God. Scholars have studied the “lament” Psalms and come up with the few elements that the Psalms would contain.

(Psalms 3 NIV) A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom. O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! {2} Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah {3} But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. {4} To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah {5} I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. {6} I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. {7} Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. {8} From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. Selah

The Psalmist starts by complaining to the Lord.

O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!

He then looks to God as the Hero of his difficult situation.

But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. {4}

The Psalmist pleads to God for deliverance

Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.

He expresses assurance that God will deliver him and praises God for it.

From the LORD comes deliverance.

Read it like a textbook. It teaches us about God’s truths

It teaches us more about Him.

(Psalms 5:4-6 NIV) You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. {5} The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. {6} You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.

God directly expresses Himself through the Psalmist so that those who read the Psalms can learn a great deal about God.

It teaches us about life

(Psalms 37:4-5 NIV) Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. {5} Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:

Here the Psalms become no different from the Proverbs and we draw many useful lessons for a successful life.

Categories of Psalms

Psalms of lamentation or complaint cry out for help in a situation of distress or frustration. Psalmists protest their innocence or confess their sins. They vow to praise God and give thanks for deliverance. The following psalms are laments: 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, 13, 17, 22, 25, 26, 28, 35, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42-43, 44, 51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59,60, 61, 63, 64, 69, 70, 71, 74, 77, 79, 80, 83, 85, 86, 88, 90, 94, 102, 109, 123, 126, 130, 134, 137, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144.

Psalms of thanksgiving describe a situation of distress and how God delivered the psalmist. The psalmist promises to fulfill vows made to God during the distress and invites the congregation to join in thanksgiving and praise to God. These psalms show us our need to acknowledge God’s work in our times of trouble and to witness to others of what God has done for us. Thanksgiving psalms are 9-10, 18, 30, 31, 32, 34, 66, 92, 107, 116, 118, 120, 124, 129, 138, 139.

Hymns lift the congregation’s praise to God, describing God’s greatness and majesty. In the hymn, worshipers invite one another to praise God and to provide reasons for such praise. These psalms are hymns: 8, 19, 29, 33, 65, 100, 103, 104, 105, 111; 113, 114, 117, 135, 136, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150. Psalms of confidence express trust in God’s care for and leadership of His people. These appear in psalms 4, 11, 16, 23, 27, 62, 125, 131.

Wisdom psalms probe life’s mysteries to teach the congregation about itself and God. These include psalms 1, 14, 36, 37, 49, 53, 73, 78, 112, 119, 127, 128, 133.

Prophetic psalms announce God’s will to His worshiping people. These are 50, 52, 58, 81, 82, 91, 95.

Acknowledgment : This study includes excepts from the fine work of David M. Fleming in The Holman Dictionary.